By: Marvin York, VP, Contact Center Member Engagement
It’s been a lifelong passion of mine to help wherever and whenever I can, which is one of the main reasons why working in the credit union industry means so much to me. The credit union philosophy of “people helping people” is one that drives me, day in and day out, to be a part of something larger than myself. So, in recent months―as the sounds and scenes of social unrest steadily grew after the death of George Floyd―I needed to ensure that my voice, as an African-American professional in this industry, was heard in the calls for greater movement on the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Finding Strength through Partnerships
To achieve progress as an industry, I believe that it is the strength of our professional partnerships, combined with our willingness to hold difficult conversations, that will make the difference. For guidance in these areas, I find the work of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) and its president/CEO, Renée Sattiewhite, to be nothing short of inspiring. I met Renée three years ago, as PSCU began developing our African-American business resource group, Sankofa. As Sankofa’s lead sponsor, I wanted to help jumpstart PSCU for the future by championing our best and brightest African-American professionals, especially through mentorship and scholarship opportunities. In partnering with Renée and the AACUC, I pledged my own personal commitment, and was proud to see PSCU’s leadership team vow to strengthen our DEI efforts.
Uniting for an Important Cause
Fast forward to today, and I’m honored to serve on the AACUC’s executive board and help PSCU’s relationship with the organization thrive. Recently, PSCU served as the event sponsor for the AACUC’s five-part virtual Commitment to Change Conversation Series, which hosted over 1,000 registered attendees, including participants from throughout the United States and internationally in Africa as well, where we continue to foster growth and excitement around the credit union movement.
The conference was months in the making for our AACUC committee members, originally developed as an in-person event near PSCU’s St. Petersburg, Fla., headquarters. Once we saw the impact of COVID-19, and its particularly devastating effects on the African-American community, we knew we needed to pivot on our tone, topics and approach. In our determination to protect the health of our communities and have the conference offerings accessible to all, we felt that a free virtual event was the best way to go.
Each day, we featured 90-minute virtual sessions led by industry experts and panelists from financial services, social justice, mental health, spirituality and academia. Topics included emotional fortitude; leadership during times of crisis; community action; and financial, economic and income equality. Ultimately, we wanted to inspire and empower credit union professionals to lead with a DEI mindset, and better represent, serve and achieve positive outcomes for communities of color.
In rallying the industry to unite for this cause, I was encouraged by the powerful messages and personal reflections delivered by conference speakers such as NCUA Board Chairman Rodney E. Hood and Local Government CEO Maurice Smith, as well as the phenomenal panel discussions such as “Here, Now, Forever: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” In addition to PSCU’s title sponsorship, we had incredible sponsorship from the likes of Suncoast Credit Union, Together Credit Union, FIS Global, CUES, CUNA Mutual Group and many others. Throughout the conference, we watched heroes and she-roes give birth to the commitment to change, and inspire others to make a difference.
Silence is Not an Option
To strengthen our industry’s commitment to change, we must act. For those that lead teams, I encourage you to engage with your employees to understand how they’re feeling when it comes to having the difficult, but necessary, conversations on the topic of racial inequality in the workplace. I encourage you to be sincere and mindful that you’re not just “checking the box” in having the conversation.
I truly believe that the power of diversity can make us stronger. In taking an important step toward progress, I encourage our credit unions to evaluate whether their C-suite, board of directors and employee base represent the people you serve, especially as the diversity of our communities continues to grow. Are there changes that can be made to help ensure that talented minority professionals are also given opportunities for roles in your organization? And as we work as an industry to fight systemic racism, is there more that your organization can be doing to level the playing field when it comes to hiring and pay practices, and in the areas of scholarship, tuition reimbursement and mentorship opportunities for your minority professionals?
We all have an important role to play in this fight. As we continue to engage with our credit union members and colleagues, think of yourself as a professional photographer. Know that you may need to adjust your perspective in how you look at social injustice in today’s world, and that it will take work to explore the complexities that lie in the shadows. It’s up to all of us to do this work. By adjusting your lens and your focus, you can help enact meaningful change, and help our industry and communities become stronger, together.
Marvin York is vice president of Contact Center Member Engagement at PSCU. In this role he develops, directs and implements strategic initiatives and business solutions. He is focused on delivering service excellence for credit unions and the member experience while guiding productivity, quality and customer service standards. Marvin’s career spans more than 40 years in the financial call center industry. In addition to this commitment, Marvin is dedicated to fostering personal growth and career development opportunities for diverse communities. He is proud to serve as the strategic lead for PSCU’s African-American Business Resource Group, Sankofa, and was recently appointed to the role of secretary for the Executive Board of Directors of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC).